Friday, August 26, 2005

Post Hurricane Katrina

Some might say it's the fourth time that's the charm rather than the third. After all, are you really trying if you've only attempted something three times? If you're wondering what sort of lead in or beginning this is for a bike blog, it's perfectly relevant when it just happens to be the number of times I've started this entry.

Being the optimistic type and with some spare time on my hands, tried to add an entry to this blog three previous times during the recent hurricane Katrina that decided to visit the South Florida coast. Each attempt was ended by flickering electricity, a dead computer and many lost thoughts.

Katrina has decided she wants to see Naples leaving behind four dead and 1.5 million people without electricity. Fortunately I'm in neither of those catagories so I'm finally able to get this entry done!

Since I would think it would be near impossible to keep a bike upright in seventy mile per hour winds I obviously can't write about any rides I've taken recently, but that doesn't mean there aren't any really interesting things happening in the world of motorcycles.

Runaway Bride on a bike?
Whats more disturbing than hearing about a fellow rider taking a nasty spill on his ride? What about one who just disappears?

'Charles "Chuck" Mitchell, was last seen by his family Sunday night at 9 o'clock when he went for a regular evening ride on his 2002 Triumph Motorcycle he bought about a month ago.

The St. Clair County Sheriff's Office stress they do not suspect foul play in the disappearance of Chuck Mitchell. They also say the retired social worker and father of two had no reason to run off, but they say they have no idea what could have happened to the 58-year-old man. Family members say this was the third motorcycle Mitchell has owned.'

Read more and see some pictures in the report at KSDK Newschannel 5.

But it only felt like 55!
Since we're asking questions, what's worst than being caught by a fellow officer of the law doing 162 mph and asking for him to look the other way? Not having a license to ride that bike!!! I kid you not, this is the story coming out NewZealand.

Caleb Taiuru Grant, on unpaid leave at the time of the incident, was stopped at 3pm on March 14 by Te Puke Highway Patrol Senior Constable Peter Redman. On the roadside, Grant did his best to talk his way out of the ticket, indicating Mr Redman did not have to issue him with an infringement notice because "we both did the same job".

"He told me I was making him feel like a criminal and questioned me about reducing the speed, so he would only have to pay an instant fine," Mr Redman told the court.

Instant fines are applied to motorists caught travelling at less than 50kmh above the speed limit. Grant, who has since resigned from the police, also used the excuse he had been "hassled by another motorcyclist since the Kawerau turn-off".

The story is being reported again because of his court appearance where the judge gave him a $850 fine and a suspended drivers license for a month.

You should really read the full story in the Bay of Plenty Times.

Loud Pipes and even louder complaints
And finally a small report out of The University of Florida has brought up the Loud Pipes debate. Some of the following information has been republished in full and normally I don't like to do that since it doesn't feel ethical to take all of someone else's work and publish it on my blog. By giving you a summary and linking to the original story you have the opportunity to read it in it's entirity along with all the ads that makes that particular publication their money. Hopefully everyone's happy!

Unfortunately this story doesn't allow direct links, instead it redirects you to the front page where you have to look through the contents and click on the headline. So for this instance I did republish the story in full in the previous entry of Biker Diaries.

First, the report that stirred the complaining story.

In an informal survey of 33 motorcycles, UF audiologists at the College of Public Health and Health Professions have found nearly half produced sounds above 100 decibels when throttled up -- equivalent in intensity to a loud rock concert or a chainsaw.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health cautions that exposure to noise at 100 decibels is safe for only 15 minutes. Permanent hearing loss can occur with prolonged exposure to any noise measuring 85 decibels or above. Although noise-induced hearing loss is permanent, it is preventable.

Motorcyclists should limit the amount of exposure they have to high-decibel levels.
Although motorcycle helmets don't provide any significant protection against noise, inexpensive foam earplugs, available at drug stores, can reduce sound levels by 20 decibels to 25 decibels.

Riders should pay attention to the warning signs of noise-induced hearing loss: a ringing sound in the ears immediately after exposure, and hearing voices and other sounds as muffled.
-- Courtesy University of Florida

Whats wrong with this report. Well it doesn't appear to be a proper study. Why? Lets start with the third word in the beginning of the report, 'informal'. For that to appear, and as early on as it did pretty much disclaims any scientific accuracy and should be treated more as a 'isn't this interesting'.

They only survey 33 bikes. Not a large number for any kind of study and how did they choose those bikes? Were they the University of Florida's dirt riding team? Did a lost Hells Angel gang stop in the parking lot outside the labs and while they were politely asking for directions a white coated scientist thought 'You know we've wondered about those darned loud motorbikes, well lets do a study!'

They don't even specify what make or type of bikes they are, and this will become more important later.

Besides the report misses the biggest threat to a bikers hearing which is wind noise. I can't remember the exact number but the decibel levels of wind noise when you ride at 55 mph is amazingly high and those riders that only wear half-helmets or no helmet at all are exposed to it completely.

Regardless, somehow this study got into the hands of Bud Wilkinson at the Republican-American who decided there was a story to be told here. How do I know? This is a guess that he read it since it's not mentioned in his article, but a link to the University of Florida report is right next to the link to his story. If this wasn't the reason for the story, the link may have been put there to give credibility to the Republic-American Story.

I'm assuming that you've read the story and will offer what I think is wrong with this report.

The story's author sort of tips his hand by the second paragraph when he writes 'The obnoxious din may not shatter windowpanes but noisy pipes can serve as an unwelcome alarm early on a weekend morning or disturb the serenity of an entire neighborhood at any time of the day or night.' This is not going to be a pro-loud pipe article.

The article does have a voice of reason though, "There are loud pipes and there are loud pipes," said state police spokesman Sgt. J. Paul Vance, but that difference isn't noted or acknowledged anywhere else in the article.

Some figures used can interpreted in other ways too. The article mentions a column by Harley-Davidson president and chief operating officer Jim McCaslin in the January/February 2005 issue of "Hog Tales" magazine noted, "Negative news stories regarding motorcycle noise have increased 400 percent over the past 10 years." Well maybe the news stories have increased, but so have the number of riders as well as the urbanization of America. More neighborhoods, more people, more complaints and consequently more stories.

The final paragraph of the article is the most confusing;
One irony to the loud pipes debate, easily visible out on the highways every day, is that many of those riders who offend while stridently making safety claims forgo wearing full-face helmets and armored riding gear that would ultimately be more beneficial to their well-being than their noisy exhausts.

Okay. Loud pipes are to keep a biker out of trouble so a car won't pull into their lane and knock them off the bike so they need all that gear to survive. This article confuses the issue by bringing up apples while talking about oranges.

Sure there are some pipes that are too loud and maybe some riders have them on their bikes for reasons other than safety, but why isn't this reporter writing about the drivers that play their music so loud it rattles the windows of the other cars around it. How entire industries are created around putting bigger and louder speakers and sub-woofers in automobiles. These same cars usually have tv screens everywhere. No distraction to the driver there.

This person annoys far more people and when they are busy watching one of the many tv's in their car can end up hurting a lot more people than a biker ever could.

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